Limiting mistakes and pitch counts will be a key for the Sparta Trojans coming off of a four-win season last year.
“Our philosophy is to go out and keep our pitch count to a minimum and make minimal errors,” coach Tyler Jones said. “We want to give them the least amount of at bats as possible and then for us to put pressure on their defense and get as many at bats as we can.”
Sparta has a strong group of upperclassmen to lead the way this season starting with three returning senior starters in Weston Smith (IF), Matthan Bliss (Util) and Josh Smith (IF). Weston Smith posted at 2.47 ERA on the mound with nine total hits last year. Bliss hit .357 last year with 10 hits and seven RBI. Josh Smith had three saves for the Trojans.
Four junior starters return to bring the total to seven returning starters for the Trojans. Those juniors include: Austin Brown (UT), Dylan Phillips (UT), Austin Dixon (IF) and Casey Purple (IF). Brown was the top hitter in that group with a .385 average and 15 total hits. Phillips had six RBI to lead the group.
That group will provide the leadership for the team.
“Our team’s biggest strength will be our ‘heart’. If we put everything in we got day in and day out we will be able to compete in every game that we play,” Jones said. “If we do not have a lot of heart then it will show in the outcome. I think this group of guys have a lot of “heart” and determination and are going to motivate each other to be the best that we can be as a team each and every day.”
That group of returners will get help and depth from a strong set of underclassmen. Sophomores John Corless (IF) and Justin Luttrull (UT) along with freshmen Harper Kissee (OF), Lake McPhereson (UT) and Isaac Willis (UT) are new faces to watch this year. Senior John Mace II (OF) will also be a new name to watch.
“This year I am looking forward to having these guys on the field for one last time for the Seniors and seeing what we can do. They know that it is their last chance to make an impact on our program and I think they are all ready for the challenge. I think if we play to our ability we can finish in the top 4-5 in our conference,” Jones said. “We have a tough conference all the way through so we will not be able to take any games off when we play.”
Sparta opens the season with its home tournament on Mar. 16-17.